In 1969, the only crematory in Oklahoma was located at a cemetery in Tulsa.
Today, almost 40 years later, there are 25 crematories in the state. Cremation is becoming a more frequent choice for several reasons, say spokesmen for the state Funeral Board, several funeral homes and Dignity Memorial, a company that offers cremation services to a network of funeral homes in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Cremation is “definitely increasing nationwide, and also here in Oklahoma,” said Lloyd Brown, director of the state Funeral Board, which licenses and regulates funeral homes, crematories, funeral directors and embalmers.
Brown estimated that cremation is being chosen 20 percent of the time statewide, but the figure is closer to 30 percent in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.
Cremation is the choice of more than half of people on the East and West coasts, said Kevin Dennis, general manager of Vondel L. Smith & Son Mortuary, which operates its own crematory in Oklahoma City.
When people move to Oklahoma, some of them bring a preference for cremation with them, and cost is one reason, Brown said.
A traditional funeral averages $6,500, with the cost of burial being a big part of that, Brown said. Direct cremation, a process in which the body is picked up and cremated without any type of viewing or services, can cost as little as $500, he said.
With a cremation, there is no need to buy a conventional casket. Combustible caskets are available, as well as rented caskets with an insert that goes into the crematory with the body, Brown said.
There’s a wide range of choices for disposing of the cremated remains, from scattering — which can be free — to buying an urn and having it placed in a niche at a cemetery, or even burying it in a cemetery plot that already holds the remains of another family member.
Some cemeteries allow multiple urns to be buried in a single cemetery space, Brown said.
Cremation “can be a cost-saving disposition, or it can be just as costly,” said Jeremy Sparks, general manager of Hahn-Cook, Street & Draper Funeral Home, which is part of the Dignity network.
Sparks said some of the reasons people give for choosing cremation are the reduced cost, “not having to put a body in the earth” and that “it’s simpler.” Others cite cremation as their “overall preference.”
The cost of a cremation with a memorial service may be half of the normal expense of a traditional funeral, Dennis said.